I neglected to mention, in my post on paraprosdokians, that some of the finest examples are to be found in our streets and public conveniences in the form of graffiti. Take this classic of the genre, reportedly seen in a women’s loo on a university campus, bewailing or boasting that:
My mother made me a lesbian!
(Everybody – you, me and Philip Larkin – knows as a matter of bleak existential fact that it’s all mum’s fault. She’s the model for misogynists everywhere, male and female both.)
It positively cried out for the next pen-wielding penny-spender to scrawl her paraprosdokian response:
If I give her the wool, will she make me one too?
In fact my all time favourite was also on a bog wall. Baby boomer Sheffielders who walked the dope and bohemia side of life will recall the Raven Tavern at the top of Fitzwilliam Street, a few yards down from its confluence with West Street and the stuff of legends. Benighted souls torn, as weekend drew nigh, between spending their last few bob on food or on ale could have cake and eat it at the Raven; one of the last of the city’s pubs to let go of the northern tradition of giving out free grub – mountains of black dag with cheese-spread and cuke sandwiches piled on platters ferried across the tap room for eager hands to snatch by the fistful – every Thursday, Friday and feverish Saturday night.
It also had a terrific jukebox, where Jimi’s cover of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, and the Who’s of Summertime Blues, great as they were, would be frequently pipped in the popularity stakes by Mario Lanza’s Drinking Song. What a pity Leonard’s Closing Time was still twenty years in the future. On second thoughts, maybe not. In the run up to 22:40 – landlord grimly seeking to enforce the law on a clientele in no mood to drink up and go quietly – we’d have heard little else.
So we’re drinking and we’re dancing/And the band is really happening/And the Johnny Walker wisdom running high …
… but the boss don’t like these dizzy heights/We’re busted in the blinding lights/Of closing time …
I digress. One day I’ll dedicate a post to this oasis, and the more colourful of those who drank and cut deals there. Meanwhile, a word about its gents’. You reached it by exiting a side door – mindful of the darts match, perilously close and played by the type of alpha male who regards anything less than six pints as suboptimal to his aim – to a cobbled courtyard. From there you followed your nose.
It was a primitive affair: no roof, and a single terracotta gutter running wall to wall across a cement slabbed floor. You pissed onto a vertical sheet of dark-tan porcelain and watched the results streak southwards to said gutter which, on a good day, flowed unimpeded to a black hole at the far corner before draining from view.
On a good day.
On all the other days that flow would be interrupted by a succession of hazards, the heedless discards of antisocial elements who spoil things for everyone; in this case by way of miniature dams, impromptu and inadvertent, to halt progress and create stagnantly yellowing pools.
Causing Lol and Madge – the husband and wife team who, along with Madge’s lover Maurice, ran the Raven – to put up a sign at head height.
Do not throw cigarette ends into the urinal!
You wouldn’t get away with that nowadays. Everybody knows somebody whose kid works in a call-centre but has a degree in Leisure and Hospitality from the University of South Rotherham. And everybody knows nobody likes being told what to do without accompanying explanation, however intelligence-insulting. It was just a matter of time before some public spirited citizen added the helpful elucidation that:
It makes them soggy and difficult to light.